past month and a half has been a month of looking ahead in many
different directions. At the beginning of March, I was looking ahead
and wishing for the arrival of sunshine and temperatures a normal
human being could bear. As March flew by and April began, decision
time arrived for my future plans and my gaze turned to next year’s
plans. The end of the university semester then rapidly descended,
and I began to look ahead to the summer and what it might entail.
Finally, above all, I have continually been reminded this month
to look ahead to the Lord, to keep my eyes focused on Him and attempt
to see Him more and more clearly each day in order to anchor the
hope at the center of my being.
past two months have been some of my busiest, but also some of my
most gloriously beautiful and fulfilling months. In March, my time
chiefly dedicated itself to teaching in the university, continuing
our Study Center class on World Religions, and entertaining and
helping my visitors. My older sister arrived in Kyiv for a week
in early March, and then my mother, accompanied by Karen Speake
from Otter Creek Church, landed a couple weeks later. Nicole stayed
in my apartment and tagged along to my classes and duties, a welcome
companion, while Mom and Karen stayed in rented apartment very near
my house for a shorter period of time. Most people don’t realize
the utter helplessness of a person visiting Kyiv who has no knowledge
of Russian, and all of my visitors commented on what a unique, humbling
experience they had confronted with their own ineptness. Acting
as tour guide and severely limited translator, I relished having
two of the people I love most in the world here to share in my life
and gain firsthand understanding of my life in Kyiv. My mom and
Karen threw a “fake” birthday celebration for me (a
week early) that brought me to tears to part of my idea of home
(good food, including a banana pound cake, included) together in
one place with my new life here, my second home. We also spent many
hours over lunch and in the depths of night talking over my life
here and my plans for the future.
up my university classes and Study Center classes has left a void
now in my life. Occupying so much of my time in preparation and
actual teaching before, now I am looking ahead and seeking to understand
with what I can best fill these gaps. In the Study Center, I concluded
our World Religions class, jointly taught by myself and two Ukrainians,
with a discussion of postmodernism and the sea of metanarratives
in which the world now finds itself swimming. We discussed new age
religions and cults and tried to understand why it is even important
to study other religions and religious people in the modern world.
In my composition classes, although they complained first about
the volume of reading, most students ended up enjoying, or at least
saying they did, reading Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and C.S.
Lewis’ Till We Have Faces. Our last meetings, I lectured on
the similarities of seeking the self in these two books, of narrators
telling a story of their life in order to demonstrate their own
personal self-images, and then encouraged each of my students to
do the same. To truly seek what is true within them, their true
faces, and not be content to sail on the surface their entire lives.
of the highlights of these months has been our weekly Soup Group
meeting. Chris and I have alternated teaching and preparing the
soup de jour, and our audience has continually grown. We have been
reading Mere Christianity as well as having an open forum for questions
of religion and Christianity. Online at the UEC site you can read
an article I wrote about two of our regular Soup Group attendees
and the affect it has had in their lives. Young Christians and non-Christians
entirely compose this group, so it has been an amazing view of the
blooming of faith and the power of the seed once planted. After
a short pause between the winter and summer semesters, while students
go home (and I go to Russia!), we plan to resume our “souping”
during May and June.
Kyiv now, all signs of the winter chill and ugliness have vanished.
When Nicole, Mom and Karen were here, I kept telling them how beautiful
the city is in the summer, or even in winter under blankets of snow
(although these aren’t the warmest blankets). When they were
here, all the snows had melted and left behind a brown barrenness
in the city. Now the numerous green trees and gorgeous whites are
blooming, the sun shines on people lounging outdoors, and people
seem to have a quicker step and smile. The burden of the cold no
longer weighs heavily on shoulders. I have struggled this month,
not in the chilly way I did in February, but in this bright, spring
type way. My adult life is blooming, and I have been trying to decide
what shape and color it will take. Seeing the blooms, I know each
option would contain its own unique beauty and fullness, which is
why it has been a struggle to choose.
all this month, I have been convicted by study and experience that
God desires me to seek to see the reality of His glory and spirit
in daily life. Hope can be called looking ahead, but I prefer to
think of it as looking through. Heaven is ahead and union with God,
but His beauty is within and underneath everything in our lives.
Through our cell meetings and reading, God has reminded me that
the more I strive to see this reality, the more I understand its
infinitude, power, and magnitude, then the more my soul is anchored
in God. This anchoring allows me soar on wings like an eagle because
I am continually uplifted by the reality of God in my life. I have
been undeservedly happy so many times these last two months. I had
a birthday, and my friends here showed me by their thoughtful gifts,
cards, and words how much I love people here and how much I am loved
in return. I had the chance to go on two day trips, to Odessa on
the Black Sea and to Chernihiv, a city with ancient roots a couple
hours from Kyiv, and I soaked up every minute of a new place, but
also the time spent with different groups of people and the interaction
between us (two 12 hour train rides in two days allow plenty of
time for this). Seeing my students respond to what I was teaching,
young people seeking, analyzing, discovering, and probing, the mysteries
and wonders of life, history, and education contagiously inflamed
me with those same desires that at times suffer from disillusionment.
the sunshine out and spring arriving, the world is a beautiful place.
These last two months many things here have come to an end and the
seedlings of what will be are starting to appear. Looking ahead,
I am trying to nurture these blooms into what they best should be.
The sight of them, though, the beauty of young life and the excitement
for growth has filled me with hope for the future. My prayer recently
has been that God put more and more in front of my eyes the reality
of Him. The hints of earthly happiness and beauty have led me to
desire to see the actuality of infinite happiness and beauty. The
more I can keep this before my eyes, and strive for what is ahead
and inside, then the more I can soar as an eagle on hope in God’s
spirit. Eagles can see much farther ahead than I can on the ground.